In the heritage sector many of our fundraising campaigns are about raising capital to support the preservation, restoration and regeneration of places that matter in our communities. These are intense and time-limited campaigns that draw on all our resources but enrich our organizations by raising public awareness, increasing capacity to fundraise, and engaging new donors and volunteers.
You are about to commit considerable effort and resources to a major campaign. A feasibility study will help you gauge community support, get a sense of how much you can reasonably expect to raise and how long it will take to raise it.
A feasibility study looks at internal and external forces that may affect your success – internal forces like your capacity to fundraise, and external forces like other major fundraising campaigns in your community.
It is usually conducted by outside consultants, but you can do it yourself. Just be sure to include people from outside your bubble who are familiar with your organization but able to look at it impartially.
Develop a brand and key messages for your capital campaign that differentiate it from your organization.
A capital campaign usually spans a period of years. It’s a time-limited, project-specific campaign during which your organization will continue its usual fundraising activities – activities you need to fund your normal operations.
Your campaign brand and key messages will help you engage your current donors and expand your reach to a whole new community of donors.
The volunteer leadership for your capital campaign are the people who will help you secure major gifts. Their role is critical to your success. So choose carefully – pick the right people. They should be people who:
In the heritage sector most of our projects are “bricks and mortar”, while donors today are more focused on funding social impact. The advantage we have is that we are working to save places that matter, and often regenerating them into spaces that are economic and social assets in our communities.
Tell the story of your place in a compelling way that brings to life its importance in the history of your community. Focus on people – past and present – who are part of its heritage. Remember that photos and videos are powerful tools to engage your community, build momentum for your campaign, and reach new donors.
The campaign reached its goal on time and the new library has experienced a 35% increase in visits since it opened.
Educate your community about your project. While the preservation of an important heritage site will have the support of a certain segment of donors, explaining the economic and social benefits your project will bring to the community can expand your reach to other donors.
Tell the story about your project – the history of the place, the people from the past, and those your project will benefit today and in the future. Many people were surprised to learn that Margaret Atwood’s mother attended the college. And the “My Library Is…” branding encouraged many to come forward and share their stories about what having a new library in their community meant to them.
Social media is a powerful tool to educate your community, tell your stories, and build momentum for your project. It doesn’t always have to be about asking for a donation.
Talk to other organizations who have run capital campaigns in your community. People in the non-profit world are usually willing to share their experiences and you can learn a lot from those who have gone before you.